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Building a Decency Driven Workplace Culture

Building a Decency Driven Workplace Culture

Authors, Steve Harrison and Jim Lukaszewski provide a guide for leaders to create an honest, ethical workplace culture in any industry.

Why is it that America has learned—better than any country or culture in the world—how to build great companies and great leaders to lead them, yet many of these same leaders seemingly look the other way as their companies and colleagues sink into ethical mischief and outright criminality?

Why is it that even after the behavioral trauma of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Equifax, VW, Theranos, Madoff, Wells Fargo, Nissan, the beat goes on—seemingly unabated—fraud, bribery, insider trading rings, and Ponzi schemes remain ubiquitous.

This book proposes that the priority of rushing to greatness too often produces temporary perceptions of success and misguided leadership. All too frequently, it turns out that these great companies are not good companies, and their highly publicized and highly compensated leaders turn out to be compromised. Too many of these organizations and their leaders have been revealed to be unequal to the ethical standards to which they’ve committed. The authors prescribe a solution, one that may be shunned by some less enlightened corporate leaders but will become fully embraced by just about everybody else.

Our prescription is that the reporting of public companies as well as larger private companies needs to incorporate palpable evidence of their intentional ethic: developing and maintaining a civil culture; designing programs to promote the workplace as an ethical, desirable environment; rewarding values-based behavior, honesty, and integrity as much as profitability. In other words, organizations and leadership that can demonstrate that they are good companies with values that are so simple, sensible, constructive, helpful, and positive that only the critics, naysayers, and bellyachers will be opposed. After all, leadership is what can drive decency, civility, integrity, and the other pathways that make up The Decency Code, including:

• Accountability

• Civility

• Compassion

• Empathy

• Honesty

• Humility

• Principle

Consider two vivid examples of corporate shame. Volkswagen altered the pollution control devices on 800,000 vehicles to falsely meet environmental standards. Wells Fargo employees intentionally cheated millions of customers who found that their trust in the bank was betrayed by misaligned incentives established by flawed leadership. In both cases, employees and their supervisors and managers by the thousands were responding to their bosses’ signals or incentives. The corporate cultures of the respective organizations rather than growing stronger were made weaker, then too weak to deter misbehavior. These are two real and unfolding stories of intentional bad, unethical, and some clearly illegal management and corporate behavior.

Decency Requires More Than Compliance

Compliance and ethics programs are proliferating; business schools are expanding their curricula; ethics and engagement managers are being hired; and leadership programs are expanding as the subject of corporate culture has become sexy. But the incidents of fraud and gross misconduct continue.

This book proposes that since corporate greed continues and since the post-Enron controls have been inadequate to detect, prevent, deter, or eliminate wrongdoing, different answers are needed if only because of the realities of the new world of work: flexible, insecure, robotic, delayered, virtual, unstable, out-of-balance, fast-moving, complex, ambiguous, global, diverse, and ruthlessly competitive. Organizational change efforts have been described by management guru Tom Peters as upsizing, downsizing, rightsizing, and capsizing. To quote change management expert Charles Handy, “a work world of seemingly endless whitewater!”

Decency is a Key Success Factor

We argue that institutionalized decency is a success factor in helping leaders and their workforces to REvitalize, REinvent, REinvest, and REspect. Now, a new kind of manager is needed: whitewater navigators who thrive in our turbulent work world. Leaders who understand that the antidote to corporate cultural disorder is leadership to help replace confusion with order, opaqueness with clarity, complexity with simplicity, hopelessness with confidence, greed with selflessness, and suspicion with trust.

The ongoing trust deficit is, in the eyes of one compliance expert, an unfortunate reality. Thus, he said, there are always people looking for shortcuts, intent on gaming the system, who in good times get greedy and in bad times get selfish. It has become clear that something more than regulation, jail terms, compliance training, hotlines, and values statements is needed. This book argues that the new age whitewater leader has tools at his or her disposal to forge an environment that will sustain an enabling culture where innovation is stimulated, performance is rewarded, trust is deep-rooted, and where it “feels good to be here.” The indispensable element is trust.

The Lexicon of Trust Busters

During his 40-year career in crisis intervention and prevention, covering hundreds of assignments in the United States and globally, helping leaders and their organizations prepare for, respond to, survive, and recover from crises, Jim Lukaszewski has developed a lexicon of all too familiar leadership trust-busters:

• Arrogance (executive pomposity)

• Testosterosis (hitting back first)

• Broken promises

• Fear-creation

• Deception

• Denial

• Overplaying strengths

• Lack of empathy

• Procrastination

• Disrespect

• Ducking responsibility

• Dismissiveness

• Disparagement

• Concealment

• Lying

• Intimidation

• Over-optimism

• Sarcasm

• Tone deafness

• Misguided incentives

• Operating on the edge

• Fostering a “do whatever it takes” culture

In The Decency Code, you will find a fully developed and actionable model for building a decent and civil workplace culture. Anyone invested in building a corporate culture that inspires a sense of purpose, empowers human beings to do their best in any business climate, and inoculates their organizations from ethical failure will be well rewarded by applying the many lessons of this book, all are committed to your success.

To read more from Steve Harrison and Jim Lukaszewski, check out their knew book The Decency Code.
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Building a Decency Driven Workplace Culture

Stephen Harrison is Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison, the world’s largest most respected global career management and talent development company. He is the author of The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies.

Jim Lukaszewski known as America’s Crisis Guru® has guided nearly 300 American and international companies through more than 400 reputation redefining crises, over 40 years. Lukaszewski On Crisis Communication, his thirteenth book (2013) is considered by many to be the CEO’s survival guide for reputation risk and crisis management problems.